Cosmos Café [2020-04-07] - The Idea of the World 4 (Part IV)

Recorded 7th April 2020


This time around we are going to take a closer look at Part IV of Kastrup’s book, “Neuroscientific Evidence”. It encompasses – as we have come to expect – three chapters (a preamble and two content articles) in which he focuses entirely on *neuroscientific *, not (primarily, quantum) physical, evidence for his ontology.

(What now follows is a quasi-summary of Chapter 10, the Preamble to Part IV.)

The evidence brought forth in this part of the book should be understood both in contrast and as a complement to the quantum physical evidence presented in the last part of the text. The quantum physical evidence is considered by many to be to remote from the macroscopic, everyday world and therefore inapplicable for argumentory purposes. More importantly, however, the evidence gleaned from neuroscience, at least for Kastrup, also “directly supports idealism”. (IOTW, p. 172, emphasis in original) [NB: In other words, for him it can be thus interpreted, which is an interesting statement about the nature of data and the interpretive process itself.] The specific claim is that “there are certain types of brain function impairment – which under physicalism should correlate with cognitive deficit and under idealism with enriched inner life – that have been shown to be accompanied by enriched inner life. This corroborates idealism and contradicts physicalism.” (IOTW, p. 175, emphasis in original)

In Chapter 11, a “surprisingly broad list of instances of brain function impairment that are accompanied by enrichment of conscious inner life and an expansion of one’s sense of identity.” (IOTW, p. 172, emphases in original) Such cases are particularly difficult for physicalism to explain; they conform well, however, to the postulate of idealism. Of course, not all brain-function impairment is accompanied by an enriched inner life, but such examples can be more easily explained by the idealist approach.

To get the most accurate data on the relationship between brain-function impairment and neuroscientific data, subjects would have to be fully instrumented before, during, and after the impairment in order to properly collect the relevant data, but this is rarely possible (e.g., cardiac arrest or G-Force Loss of Consciousness (G-LOC)). Chapter 12, then, is a philosophical analysis of the results of studies that have been conducted using psychedelics, for these have been shown to reduce brain activity levels. In other words, these studies provide a clearer opportunity to examine the relationship between brain activity and subjective experience.

The focus of this part of the book is not so much on refuting physicalism’s claims, rather it is a further attempt to show how – using so-called “hard evidence” – idealism actually is a better fit to the available neuroscientific data than physicalism.

Reading / Watching / Listening

Kastrup, Bernardo (2019) The Idea of the World: A multi-disciplinary argument for the mental nature of reality [IOTW] , Winchester, UK/Washington, USA , iff Books, pp. 171-197.

Kastrup, IOTW, Ch 11, Self-transcendence correlates with brain function impairment (online)

(Also, Summary of Ch 11 in *Scientific American *, 29 March 2017) (online)

Kastrup, IOTW, Ch 12, What neuroimaging of the psychedelic state tells us about the mind-body problem (online)

Seed Question Complexes

  • How convincing do you find Kastrup’s case as presented in this part of the book? What do you consider to be the strong points of his argumentation? Which weaknesses, if any, can you identify?

  • Do you agree with Kastrup’s notions of “brain function impairment” and “self-transcendence”? (We’ve discussed more than once his handling of important notions and concepts.) How valid do you think his approach is? Do you think he uses terms such as “mystical” or “self-transcending” perhaps too loosely? Do you find his argumentation here convincing? Why? Or, why not? What do you think of his suggested “as-of-yet unrecognized causal principle” underlying the issue in question?

  • Do you agree with Kastrup’s assessment of the validity of examining psychedelic phenomena to explore his idealist approach? How relevant are the neuroscientific methods for capturing relevant data in regard to these phenomena for providing support for his idealistic ontology? What are your own thoughts on the relationship between neuroscientific methods, brain activity, and consciousness? Are they valid or are we dealing with an apples-and-oranges issue?

  • Has your reading of this part of the text modified your understanding of what he was trying to achieve in Parts I through III of the book. What further consequences has your reading had for your own understanding of reality?

Context, Backstory, and Related Topics

Suggested Agenda

  1. Welcomes (especially if we have new participants)

  2. General overview of the session

  3. Gather first reactions and open questions that might be answered in our discussion

  4. Engage the reading from the vantage of Chapter 11 and Chapter 12

  5. Round-up and preview of coming attractions (what’s up next time)

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I came through this blog post of Timothy Grieve-Carlson who points out what I was talking about in the last session on plant cognition. A nice example of how times are changing comes from his historical comparison between The New York Times handling the subject almost half a century ago and how it does nowadays: https://www.paracultures.com/post/speaking-with-plants-in-the-new-york-times

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Here three links to what I mentioned in or conversation

  1. a blog and this specific blog post about the preliminary results of the Aware Study II that is related to NDEs. There has been Aware study I which results were published some years ago and raised discussion
    https://awareofaware.co/2019/11/13/first-results-from-aware-ii/

  2. a blog post of Bernardo explaining the controversy about interpreting and communicating the results of the psychedelic brain studies: https://www.bernardokastrup.com/2018/10/setting-record-straight-with-robin.html

  3. Not sure if you can access this forum thread, but here BK talks about his psychedelic experiences https://groups.google.com/forum/#!msg/metaphysical-speculations/NyLrbhrIgJQ/MIOAFRjRBAAJ

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Here are the links to previous CCafés that I mentioned:

The latter text – which we discussed to some extent in the above-referenced CCafé – has been referenced a number of times here on the platform (ca. 17x), but it would go beyond the limits of this forum to list them all. Just enter the title in the search field if you’re interested in finding more that has been said about it. (Note that Edward Kelly, one of the editors of the text, wrote the Afterword to Kastrup’s book.)

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FYI: I was able to access #3, so the link seems to be valid.

During our talk, I also mentioned Eben Alexander, the neurosurgeon who himself underwent a 7-day NDE, and who apparently has crossed paths with Kastrup as well.

His book Proof of Heaven: A Neurosurgeon’s Journey into the Afterlife (NY, et al.: Simon & Shuster Paperbacks, 2012) was well-received, but not without controversy, which I think goes without saying.

You can find his website here: http://ebenalexander.com/

Also, here’s a talk he gave at the 128th Summer Convention of the Theosophical Society in America (2014) that might be of interest as well:

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